Potato Preacher – a Sceptic’s Guide to Angus Buchan

When some 60,000 men gather in a rural area for a Christian-themed event, my senses begin twitching. Not only the number but the exclusive gender sent alarm-bells chiming in discord. This happened in April 2008 and it was/is called, disgustingly, the “Mighty Men” conference. Held at Greytown, here in my country South Africa, men – and only men – flew from all around the world to see the preaching of a man in a hat. (At one point, the largest tent in the world was used. Yes – in the world!)

His name is Angus Buchan. He first came to prominence after the release of his book, followed by a movie, entitled Faith Like Potatoes. As the IMDB plot-summary says:

Angus Buchan, a Zambian farmer of Scottish heritage … leaves his farm in the midst of political unrest and racially charged land. [He] travels south with his family to start a better life in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. With nothing more than a caravan on a patch of land, and help from his foreman, Simeon Bhengu, the Buchan family struggle to settle in a new country. Faced with ever mounting challenges, hardships and personal turmoil, Angus quickly spirals down into a life consumed by anger, fear and destruction. Based on the inspiring true story by Angus Buchan the book was adapted for the big screen … and weaves together the moving life journey of a man who, like his potatoes, grows his faith, unseen until the harvest

He began giving talks and preachings across the country soon after. As he told The Argus:

“God gave me a directive to turn fathers back to sons and sons back to fathers, to take back the family unit.”

Although he has been asked why there was no conference for women, he said his directive had been to challenge men to stand up and be counted: “To be prophet, priest and king. They must be the breadwinners, protect their wives and discipline their children.”

“God gave me…” – Yes, we have someone else who has a red-phone connection to god. The number 60,000 is quite staggering. Apparently, 80% of the men who attended were Afrikaners which only makes sense. There is a high religiosity amongst the Afrikaner people here in South Africa, of a particular conservative kind. I know quite a number and have been to church services – the passion runs deep to engage with their lord. They are friendly, open people neither racist nor stupid but certainly very isolated from having a figure that represents them on an international level. They have found that in Buchan.

Buchan himself is often shown to be the epitome of an Evangelical Afrikaner: friendly, passionate, warm and very conservative in his beliefs. To say that the Afrikaner people – or Christian people in general – are clutching at straws would be nearer the mark given his statements and views.

Call me paranoid, but I’m wary of anyone who speaks or knows something about the monotheist god that I do not. Or rather, I’m mortified by someone who has a real-time feed to god’s consciousness.

Buchan, in July,  drew an audience of 70,000 people at Loftus (also in South Africa). He tapped into iGOD and was able say: “God is here. The Lord is here” (3). The resounding cries of “AMEN!” could shake the fabric off any veil of reason.

Not only were over 70,000 people crying their hearts and eyes out, the event “was also broadcast live to about 500-million people around the world on GOD TV, one of the world’s largest Christian television networks.” (3) We are not dealing with small fish here. There was nothing particularly new, enlightening or incredible about Buchan – except for his readings of the Bible that sees the lowering of women to be “looked after” by the husbands and for the “discipline of children”.

Until recently…

Not a week ago, he was in my city of Cape Town defiling the air with nonsense. According to Buchan, prayer has cured homosexuality, illness and depression. I have problems with saying “prayer” does anything let alone “cure”. Let us avoid that and say rather a “positive outlook” cured the illness and depression (I don’t know one way or the other if prayer has ever had an effect but so far the view is still zero, alongside the Loch Ness Monster and fairies). Curing is great. But what on earth does he mean by “curing” homosexuality?

I find it hard to fathom that these talks, which he’s still giving around my country, is based on logic like this. This is an insult to reason and humanity. What is more insulting is the lack of rationalist critique. We are a fragile nation, prone to acts of violence against ourselves. We’ve seen it recently in our mad xenophobic attacks, our change of power – its a soil teeming with uncertainty. As I said, when someone like Buchan comes along, exuding confidence, Christianity and conservativeness, you have an engine roaring to go. The Buchan machine is moving through the country and, with his nonsense spewing out, he is continuing to defile the air.

Harsh? Hostile? Yes. I’ve never presented myself otherwise to a decent person’s reasoning. I’m angry not at Buchan – he can keep his views. I am angry, upset and largely disappointed that he is having sell-out shows. I am upset that no one is taking notice of people who are no doubt longing for some answers to our confused place in history. Where do we go, what do we do, who do we learn from? Our future president Jacob Zuma is drowning in a sea of corruption charges, fighting sharks invisible and real who are rightly placed to point their fingers at his abuse of justice.

I will now take the fallacy of the straw man quite literally.

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

C. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

I have focused on his statements and shown the context in our volatile, fragile and somewhat desperate and desparate nation. But perhaps it serves a motif: All these people are clutching at straws and Buchan is that strawman.

He stands for racial equality and integration (speaking fluently in one of the many beautiful official languages in South Africa). But he misses the boat by relying in Bible (il)logic. This will not do. We must make a stand for reason, we must face the teeth of superstition with the hammersmack of logic. We are not so far gone as reasonable, decent people to invoke this man as a pathway to the numinous. We all long for the numinous and the transcendent. Religion’s usurpation of this longing, framed in the light to the “one god”, is relentless in using this as an undertow to a natural wanting. No more.

It matters not that the feelings expressed tapped into something. Remain at a cold-distance to those who know the mind of god and claim to cure homosexuality. Rather, we should remain sceptical of his approach until such time as he has given us reason to be other than suspicious of his rehashed, evangelical ramblings.

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16 thoughts on “Potato Preacher – a Sceptic’s Guide to Angus Buchan

  1. In the words of our Lord and Saviour, I pray: “Forgive him Father for he knows not what he does” or says.

  2. I don’t know him as I’m not in the country and heard/read about him, but if you’re a real Christian, not only saying you are…and you know the Word, you will know that God is against homosexuality…like many other things too…but it’s not for us as humans to discriminate in any way…and is it not what you’re doing too? I don’t care what other people are doing/saying, it’s not for us to judge…let Him do that one day. Yes, you can have your own view – like he’s got is view, it’s a “free” world we live in.

  3. You remind me of myself a few years ago. Always looking for more answers. Then I found God. I never felt such calmness.
    The answer to your question is no. If you know about Him, why should I defend of explain my wonderfull believe. It’s your choice. Everyday you are older and hopefully wiser than yesterday. So take your anger towards Buchan and use your philosophy to work out that you are just plain jealous of what he and ?k christians got an you not. Just remember that you can have it too. Yes you Tauriq Moosa.

  4. I believe that people like yourself try to see logic in something that has no logic. You cannot solve a supernatural riddle with empirical data. That is why we have faith. I know that you have a fragile country that is prone to attacks, not to mention HIV. I think that this is more of a reason to have the lord in your lives. The beautiful thing about this is the fact that it is your lord, not just mine. You have a choice. I just hope that stubbornness and talks of strawman do not cloud your judgment.

    Here is a logical way for you to understand. If you believe in the lord and do as he says and there is a God (you will be ok), If you believe in the lord and do as he says but there is not God (you will be ok). If you dont believe in the lord and there is a God (you will not be ok).

    I just ask that you open your heart.

  5. @Bron Bates

    “You cannot solve a supernatural riddle with empirical data. That is why we have faith.”

    So because you have a lack of knowledge, are ignorant or cannot prove something, then it must be supernatural and hence be a god? And the only thing needed to neutralise lack of knowledge, proof etc is faith. Therefore the more ignorant, uneducated or dumber you are the more faith based proof there is of a “super natural being”…..

    No wonder having faith like a child is important in religion… God of the (knowledge) gaps indeed.

    “Here is a logical way for you to understand. If you believe in the lord and do as he says and there is a God (you will be ok), If you believe in the lord and do as he says but there is not God (you will be ok). If you dont believe in the lord and there is a God (you will not be ok).”

    You are confusing logic with being correct or factual. And if one considers the properties that “believers” attach to this god then you are already disproving some of these properties (all knowing). Surely this all knowing being will see through this ruse, hedging ones’ bets or emotional blackmail in no time…

    O I better believe in case I get fried…. or maybe God will give me HIV just to make a point….

    I hope your ignorance and blind faith does not blind you to reality for long.

  6. Tauriq – what did you write to deserve such vacuous comments as the first four?
    (2) According to Nikita you say you are a Christian. Where!?
    (3) Francois, having “found God” now sees no use at all for reason: “why should I defend of explain my wonderfull believe (sic).”
    (4) Bron hits the nail on the head when she says “people like yourself try to see logic in something that has no logic.” Unfortunately Tauriq, she does not mean this as a compliment.
    But take heart, Ana Heitor (1) is praying for you.

    This all reminds me of an apt comment by Ian MacDougall:
    “The Creator could have assigned the left brain for rationality, the right brain for belief, and built a switch into the top of the human skull to ensure that the two were never both running at the same time. (Ah well. Nothing’s perfect. Not even Intelligent Design.)”
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notescomment3.php?id=2711&numcomments=25

  7. @Mags..I didn’t say HE is a Christian, my statement is a general statement… “IF..you are a Christian”… “IF you like swimming…” “IF you are a person that likes…” I think it’s more clear now?

  8. @ Maximusodi

    I think what the person attempted to say is this – if you truly believe in God, you will lead a life which is a blessing for those around you. If God doesn’t exist, you haven’t lost anything.

    Nothing prevents any human being from being decent and treating other people well – unlike the ex-Muslim author of this article who still treats people with the typical obnoxious Muslim contempt and attitude.

  9. You remind me of myself a few years ago. Always looking for more answers. Then I found The Flying Spaghetti Monster. I never felt such calmness.
    The answer to your question is no. If you know about His Noodleness, why should I defend of explain my wonderful belief. It’s your choice. Everyday you are older and hopefully wiser than yesterday. So take your anger towards Tauriq and use your philosophy to work out that you are just plain jealous of what he and ?k Pastafarians got an you not. Just remember that you can have it too. Yes you Francois.

  10. For all the alleged “hate” Christians have for non-Christians, the real hate is that of many non-Christians for Christians. Sites such as these are truly a delight to the Adversary.

  11. I look at it this way. Satan will always try to put down what God is doing through the Lord Jesus Christ. When ever you have a man of God, preaching, and healing through the blood of Christ, satan will send someone to try to put it down. To make others dis-belive. This man, Angus Buchan, is doing what we all, those that believe in Jesus, should be doing. Spreading the word of God, healing the sick, and bringing salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Though all have sinned, God still loved us enough to send his son, Jesus, to die for us. That if any shall call on the name of Jesus he shall be saved.

  12. Pingback: This blog in review 2010 « The Indelible Stamp

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